Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Kammermetal-Core - German Chamber Music Rawks!

You can always guarantee finding something a bit odd in Berlin, and on a recent trip I stumbled across a gig that underlined that statement in big yellow marker pen. Chamber Metal, anyone?

Colombiaclub, an old US Forces cinema on the perimiter of the decaying Cold War landmark Tempelhof airport, was the glorious setting for a night of quite abject strangeness. Its faded 50s chic jarred nicely with the goth-tinged metalists in corsets and stove pipe hats that were mingling among the big-bellied rockers and excitable young nippers who made up the crowd in equal numbers. And the first band up only added to the already curious nature of the night..

Remember Twilight describe themselves as Kammermetal-core - Kammer meaning Chamber, as in Chamber Music. So it was a surprise to see that half of this mob looked like they could have been in any youth-fuelled metal band on the globe. But it was the addition of the more classically-brandished instruments that gave this mob its winning difference. Violins, cellos and a gangly, slightly self-conscious chap in a black skirt clutching an oboe mingled among the more trad black clad metalists - it all looked a bit incongruous, but it sounded flipping ace.

Next were Silent Poem. With a name like that I was expecting some withering goth-metal whimsy. But instead we were presented with another untraditional set up - this time drums, guitar, violin and a stick thin double bass. The jovial front boy oozed charisma, and their slick stompy sounds roped in genres as diverse as bar room jazz, celtic folk, ska punk and heads down and shake yer head metal noise. And the kids loved them, as a right old hootenanny kicked off down the front, with folk reels and headbanging colliding in a sea of thrown flowers. But all this was just the curious entree before the rich banquet that soon followed.

An old radiogram sat centre stage, wheezing out crackly sounds of the past, as a sketchy gent in white tie and tails crept on holding a candle lamp and began to dust the stage. One by one, Victorian gentlemen in tall hats and long coats marched purposefully onto the stage, the butler taking their vestments and easing them into their chairs. Once this drawn out but quaintly amusing ceremony had finished, six pale-faced characters stood before us - and there wasn't a single guitar between them. Double bass and cello flanked the wings, a hirsute ninja manned a hefty drumkit festooned with old lamps at the back, and two hollow-eyed dervishes tooted furiously on twin clarinets, while Bastille the butler skitted between them, straightening chairs, cleaning up and making the occasional proclamation.

Coppelius, it seems, are a high concept band. And that's before you even get to the music.

Steaming immediately into a barrage of power metal riffs sawn out on the big stringed things, their wind division piping out the melodies with a banshees wail, you suddenly realise you're among familiar company. Songs by megalithic metal monsters the calibre of  Metallica, Maiden and Rammstein are given the chamber treatment, sounding for every bit like they should always have been played this way. And while all this is going on, a funny old master-and-servant soap opera is playing out between the band and their trusty manslave.

Down the front, the metal heads are doing windmills to clarinet solos, and love notes are being passed to the on stage retainer to be read out to the adoring masses. If I could speak better German this could all make perfect sense - but somehow I like the not knowing. Well it does add further to the air of oddness and curious mystery.

Two and a quarter hours later and they were still heaving out the noise. But somehow it had only seemed like twenty minutes had passed, we were that engrossed. I'm not sure if we'd stumbled across the iceberg tip of a movement, or an isolated incident, but this Chamber Metal business gave us one of the best nights out I've had in a long while - and is a scene, I sense, that needs some further exploration.

Pictures © Remember Twilight, Silent Poem, Coppelius.
Videos from YouTube. Underlying © lays with the owners of the clips. 

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